Uninsured motorist insurance carrier sues in accident case

by Mandy Hicks

Uninsured motorist insurance coverage can help pay for property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering in the event that an insured is involved in an accident with an uninsured (or underinsured) driver.  An uninsured driver is just what you would think it means – a driver that does not have insurance. Underinsured driver means the at fault driver has insurance, but they do not have enough insurance to cover your damages such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

If an insurance company makes payments to its insured under a uninsured motorist policy, the insurance company has a right to file suit against the uninsured driver in order to assert its subrogation rights. In such cases, the insurance company essentially stands in the shoes of the insured and is held to the same procedural rules as the insured if he or she filed the lawsuit.

Facts of the Case

In the recent case of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Blondin, the plaintiff was a uninsured motorist insurance carrier that made payments to its insured and a passenger as a result of a motor vehicle accident that occurred in July 2009. The uninsured motorist provider originally filed a civil lawsuit in May 2010, asserting a claim against the father of the motorist who allegedly caused the collision. In the suit, the uninsured motorist provider argued that it was subrogated to the rights of its insured with regard to her negligence claim against the defendant for property damage incurred in the wreck.

On July 15, 2010, the uninsured motorist carrier filed a motion to amend its complaint to include a claim for the insured’s injuries, increasing the demand from $7,371 to $24,999. The general sessions court judge who heard the motion found that Tennessee’s one-year statute of limitations had run as to the personal injury claim because more than a year had passed since the original lawsuit. The uninsured motorist carrier attempted to remove the case to circuit court but later voluntarily dismissed the suit without prejudice in May 2011.

In January 2012, the uninsured motorist insurance carrier refiled the suit for both the insured’s property damage and her personal injuries in general sessions court. The court dismissed the case with prejudice (meaning the lawsuit could not be refiled in the same court), and the uninsured motorist carrier appealed the case to the circuit court. The circuit court denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss the personal injury claim as time-barred and, following a trial, entered judgment in favor of the uninsured motorist carrier for $16,460. The award was reduced by 20 percent because the insured was believed to be 20 percent at fault in the accident.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

On appeal, the court modified the circuit court’s judgment to reflect an award of $5,776 in favor of the uninsured motorist carrier, reversing the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s motion for dismissal of the personal injury claim on statute of limitations grounds. This same ruling affirmed the lower court’s ruling on the allocation of fault between the insured and the other motorist.

According to the court, the uninsured motorist carrier’s claim for the insured’s personal injuries did not qualify for the savings statute because the claim was not filed within the applicable statute of limitations period. The court rejected the uninsured motorist carrier’s argument that its appeal to circuit court from general sessions court effectively extended the statute of limitations on the personal injury claim.

For Reliable Advice Concerning Your Motor Vehicle Accident Case

If you’ve been involved in an accident, you need a law firm that will handle your case in a timely, professional, and efficient manner. The experienced Tennessee motor vehicle accident attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley are here to help. Call us at (270) 781-6500 to schedule a free consultation regarding your Tennessee or Kentucky accident case. Our offices are located in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and we serve all of south central Kentucky and middle Tennessee, including Nashville, Springfield, and Clarksville.

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